tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC December 23, 2010 3:00am-4:00am EST
on his twitter, the next time i receive a ring for a man, i expect it to be for a full, equal american marriage. i'm chris hayes in for keith olbermann. you can read more of my work at thenation.com. i want to thank the wonderful staff of "countdown" for having me this week, they were fantastic and kept me looking not terrible. big. let's play "hardball." good evening, i'm chris matthews in washington. leading off tonight, wild finish. winston churchill once said, "there are two kinds of success,
initial and older." republicans began this late fall season as the big fall winners. thanks to the election they came back to this city dancing and strutting like a new orleans funeral band. the funeral being for the democrats, of course, and the president. some funeral. this morning in this city of the intended burial, the president opened the day signing the -- saying good-bye to don't ask, don't tell. the senate saluted the afternoon by passing the new s.t.a.r.t. nuclear arms control treaty and capped off by the passing of the health care bill. as did the house. what a day. plus what happened today was also more about the ending of don't ask, don't tell. it signaled a change in american attuss. let's face it towards gay people, before today there was the assumption, that there must be something wrong with gay people, because what? look it's official. you couldn't serve in the military if you said that you were gay. no more. as of the signing this morning and certainly as the years now
pass, we'll be a country proud to send our gay citizens as well as our straight citizens to help defend us. also, that new s.t.a.r.t. treaty was approved 71-26, including 13 republicans who voted for it tonight, we are going to welcome one of those 13 who voted differently than his party leaders. plus who would have believed the senate could even get -- even get to the 9/11 health care bill for those ground zero responders? they got to it the house got to it both passed it, what a child finish for a wild year. it was the little year that could. finally, how do you explain the director of national intelligence getting stumped about a potential terror threat on television hours before? give the man a television set for christmas. how about we give out his address and everybody send their old tv sets to the director of national intelligence. they'll know what is going on, don't you think? led by mitch mcconnell, david corn is washington bureau chief for mother jones. and richard wolffe an msnbc political analyst. gentlemen, i don't know how you
can get a better argument than this. the great debate, you might call it. the president, of course, accomplish ments ments for this year are quite graphic. we've got the health care bill for 9/11. let me go through it. here is the obama -- the press conference today, 'cause he does it better. here he is. let's listen. >> i think it's fair to say that this has been the most productive post-election period than we have had in decades and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we've had in generations. >> let's look at those major accomplishments, what he calls the most productive years in congress for generations. the new s.t.a.r.t. treaty ratified, repeal of don't ask, don't tell. the auto industry, especially general motors, was rescued. the economic stimulus plan to stop the second great depression. wall street reform, health care reform for the first time since
harry truman began the effort. david corn, he is saying that. now, let listen to what -- i will read to you what mitch mcconnell said today to really draw the line here. he said, "election day 2010, they, the american voter, made it very clear that they had had enough of the democrats' two-year experiment in big government." you can't have a more crystal- clear debate who is right you can the president or mcconnell? >> well, right now the president has results. you know, you can point to the rescue of the auto industry, you know, you can make the argument the cbo says the stimulus saved 3.5 million jobs. if you look at what mitch mcconnell saying, he is basically saying we would have survived, everything had been fine if we had done nothing. we should not have any government intervention after that great crash that came at the end of the bush/cheney years. 9/11, food safety, he has nothing to say about these government interventions. health care, should have just continued on as it was. so, yes, the public did see, the voting public in november to take the side of the republicans into it about being this antsy into this government
intervention. but mitch mcconnell can't offer any proof that they would have -- that the republicans hurricane they been in charge the last two years works have done anything to help on any of these fronts. this is what obama is doing today. this will be the continuing debate of the next two years going right into 2012. >> richard, richard wolffe joins me now, he's quite a literary figure. wasn't it mark twain who said the reports my death are premature? >> yeah. >> this president had a funeral this past election in november. it seems like the republicans were -- -- i said it was like a new orleans band dancing and struck the and enjoying the occasion much they were a built premature, weren't they? >> mark twain is selling a lot of books, even now. what's interesting here is comparing and contrasting the fates of mitch mcconnell and barack obama because not only did everyone write off the president at just six weeks ago, and you can have that list of legislative accomplishments, but you got to add to that list what he has done or what mitch mcconnell has done to himself because mcconnell has given up, first of all on the tax debate this position of sentry. reasonableness. he has now handed over the mantle of bipartisanship to the president, something he denied for him for two years but also today, what happened with the s.t.a.r.t. treaty, not just the treaty but mitch mcconnell lost his caucus. he lost his leadership authority that rigid discipline that was
so successful for him for the last two years. who could have predicted in six weeks, not on the president getting this list of accomplishments but mitch mcconnell would be weaker after coming within a whisker of taking back the senate. >> you know, i'm looking at numbers, i don't have them all here tonight, people don't need the numbers, they can know what is going on. moderate republicans moving to become supporting the president in some numbers much the independents moving become with and supporting the president. and then of all things, in the midst of this sort of war over idea as well, john mccain becomes the poster boy for the republican party again, to out there serenating generationwise. how he doesn't want gays to be in the military, everybody ever in the military knows they have served with gays, except him. >> well, what happened was the republican caucus came to be taken over by the cranky end of the caucus. lindsey graham, complaining about having to work too long and then john mccain saying,
well, if you don't -- if you take away dadt, don't ask, don't tell, then maybe i'll vote for s.t.a.r.t. i mean is that putting country first? i tell you, this week when barack obama's relaxing back in home in hawaii, there is a new movie coming out, "true grit." i think he is going to -- >> great revenge movie. rooster cogburn. the new one good? >> the new one is good. >> i love jeff bridges. look now at the president talking about the republicans, of course being very polite. let's listen to what he is saying. >> my sense is that the republicans recognize that with greater power is going to come with greater responsibility. some of the program thinks guest i think we saw in the lame duck was a recognition on their part that people are going paying attention to what i'm doing as well as what the democrats in congress are doing. >> wishful thinking, richard? more responsibility will come with more power? >> well maybe, they did get a lot done in the last few weeks and the white house believes, obama's aides believe that part of the changed dynamic here is that republicans feel the burden
of governing now it is a shared burden, i'm not convinced about that. and of course everybody expects they traded these big deals, these big landmark pieces of legislation for a thousand skirmishes over the budget now with the house republicans. moving forward they got that continuing resolution but the debit over the budget is going to be painful on every single item of policy going forward. so, let's see how responsible they are moving forward. i don't think it will last and i don't think anyone in the white house seriously thinks that it will either. >> you know, i think we with all agree, i think right, left and center, anybody watching now knows the president has an incredibly high i.q., just intellectual acuity, let's agree on that forget the politics. i sense today that he is not addressing the people he was addressing a year ago or even this year. he is not talking to the democratic party saying hold together, be solid. he is talking to the middle and the middle right now and saying,
you can join me. i hear a president now today again talking to the republican party out loud saying to them, i'm going to be presenting in my state of the union something you may want to buy rather than something i just got to get my crowd to go along with. what do you think, richard you are the expert. >> absolutely. independent voters, all they are focused on. those are the group that he has lost. by the way, one thing he actually mentioned in his press conference i think we are going to come back to is energy. i mean that is going to speak to middle america in a way that all of this other stuff that we with obsess about in washington just doesn't -- he can pick off people like senator murkowski and that's the group that was there, right there, talking in the oval office with him, people like scott brown, those moderate republicans are who are newly empowered in this new dynamic, but yeah, independent voters. >> here are the candidates, by the way, i want to go
particularly what you said a minute ago, not just the general electorate out there look at this list, lugar from indiana, isakson, georgia, corker, tennessee, murkowski, alaska, who is no palinite, olympia snowe from maine, a very independent state, susan collins from maine, a very independent state, scott brown who has to go to the senate to get re-elected up in massachusetts, lamar alexander, also from tennessee, a very sophisticated guy as we know, and thad cochran and mike johanns. it looks like he has got a candidate list there of people to form his coalition. he can't just go pelosi and to the left. he has to go pelosi and to the right a bit. >> we are seeing the return of moderate republicans who were counted dead a year or two back. at the same time, while i think obama has increased his bipartisan -- >> or steny hoyer and to the right. >> he's increased his bipartisan street cred. mcconnell has none of it. he has shot it -- purposely said i'm not going to work with the president unless he comes over to our side appealing to independents, obama has the saying i'm trying to be reasonable. same time, you asked earlier in
the day, why did he talk about gitmo, why did he talk about the dream act? i think obama is doing what every candidate has to do keep your base happy. >> what did he do to keep them happy by saying i'm going to keep fighting for what you and i believe in? >> for the rule of law and the war on terror, for immigration and so that's what he has to do. >> he is talking to you, isn't he? >> he's talking to a lot of people. >> talking to you? he is talking to you he is talking to you? >> yes. >> just admit that. >> i'll take that. i will take that i don't think i'm what he has in mind exactly but nevertheless. >> okay, maybe younger. talking about the net roots, i think you are so smart, i hear him talking to the net roots, may have gotten them to go along with him on the tax deal, didn't really hate it don't worry i'm still with you on the stuff you care most about, these foreign policy -- >> the base of the american people. >> this is the most exciting day of the year so far, david corn, thank you, richard wolffe, so much is happening, so many questions so many possibilities out there of new coalitions, things are happening in this country. this is not a dead polity, by any means. coming up, president obama signs the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, we are going to get to that very issue with some people who really care about it an historic day for the military, the gay rights movement and let's be honest,
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florida, florida, florida, my late colleague, tim russert, used to say that it is still the biggest swing state in presidential politics, a state president obama carried back in 2008. so how does look heading into 2012 down there? pretty good. a new ppp automated poll finds president obama leading the potential republican field in florida. among the republicans, mitt romney does best. he trails the president by just two points in florida 46-44. that's darn close. mike huckabee, he is behind 49-44. that's five points. newt, 47-42. and president obama does his best against who else, sarah palin, i think palin's not too good down there 52-38. anyway, sarah silverman could beat her down there. those are the good numbers for the president and they mirror from what we saw from another poll, a key battleground state, ohio, just yesterday. we will be right back. lelelelel] many people don't understand
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we are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. we are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. those are the ideals that generations have fought for. those are the ideals that we uphold here today and now it is my honor to sign this bill into law. >> huh. welcome back to "hardball." that was president obama, of course, today, signing -- sounds like someone wrote singing, into law, that's true, signing repeal of don't ask, don't tell, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly into the military for the first time. thank you, gentlemen. a former clinton adviser. thank you, gentlemen. today is a day, i say in my opening, big for america, big for the military, big for gay rights people. you're first. important because one of the things i think is when you let
people defend your country, it is very hard to give them a hard time once they have defended your country. >> let me tell you it is a big day for me personally and why we are doing equality matters going become a couple years. i saw the movie "milk" and i came out of there and i said culturally, for 30 years, a lot offing were grows. politically, still a lot of discrimination in the law and i felt like i could do something and i'm in a position to do something. so that's why we started this project. today, what you were saying about it is a celebration of democracy. you saw democrats, republicans, military people on that stage. i was really proud of our democrats on that stage. >> why is it so -- richard, you can do this. why is it still a partisan issue? and this is not an objective statement. you look at generally, you got -- if you had the numbers here, we are going to show them, very few republican senators version few republican members of the house, generally the party, as a party, look at this, 31 members voted against repealing don't ask, don't tell, in the house, 15 for it. it is almost like an apple pie
issue, the wrong way with them. >> it is really a glass half empty/half full. >> oh, come on. >> no, listen. the democrats have -- >> there is a drop in that glass for you guy, the republicans. >> the democrats have really led on this hist -- >> glass half-full. >> starting with president clinton, president obama terrific on this. >> why are you being so nice to republicans? they are completely against this though. >> i'm being nice to republicans only because we need republicans to be successful -- >> you are politicking here? let's be objective here. why is john mccain coming out luke a troll on this issue? why is he a poster boy against this? >> let's refer to president clinton. richard referred to president obama, he had the original vision and the commitment to civil rights to do this you remember '93, '94. >> i interviewed him. by the way, david, way before the campaign in the very beginnings of the primary campaign of '92, i had him on the stage of san francisco, he said he was for open service period. don't ask, don't tell was a compromise to open service. >> i was in the right-wing then.
i knew what they were doing then and now. it is a phony wedge -- >> for who? old people? >> their base, they exploit gay people and fear the of gay people to gin up their base. that's what they do. it's a totally cynical thing. half of them don't even believe it. i know, i was in the right-wing. that is what is going on here. >> how do gay republicans -- there's a lot of gay republicans statistically, there are. >> i don't know how they justify it. >> a hell of a lot of staff people i just know it's a fact. why do they put up with it their party being so homophobic publicly and politically? >> i used to be one. >> how did you put up with it? what were you thinking? that's a good question. >> self-loathing. i wasn't confident enough. >> so you joined the party who hated you? >> that's exactly right. >> incredible. incredible. right. i think there is a lot of that. >> do you think that's true? >> i don't know. 'cause i -- you know, i don't have that in my personal
background but pretty extraordinary. i think if you talk to people like ken melman, who has been very brave recently, has talked about his journey. i mean, he says he deeply regrets not being more open and honest about his sexual orientation along the way and things that could have been different if he had done that but everybody is on their own journey, you can't judge people for what they did or for their conduct but i -- definitely the democrats have been better but the republicans are coming around on this slowly but surely. i mean, the democrats have been way ahead but look at dick cheney who supports gay marriage. look at laura bush who just said it is going to happen. >> not sure dick cheney is all the way on that cheney, by the way. >> our former vice president. >> yeah. >> but other people like cindy
mccain and megan mccain, i mean there are republicans, ted olson. >> the wives and daughters are great. >> but ted olson, former solis tore general -- >> you can may making your case can. here is president on the gay marriage issue today. let's listen to him, he wants to talk to as you say, on his personal journey. here is his. let's listen. >> my feelings about this are constantly evolving. i struggle with this. i have friends, i have people who work for me who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. and they are extraordinary people. and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about. at this point, what i've said is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. and i think that's the right thing to do but i recognize that from their perspective, it is not enough. and i think this is nothing something we are going to continue to debate and i personally am going to continue wrestle with going forward. >> interesting thing for the president to say, he is wrestling with an issue, hasn't come down on it permanently. he is saying, i think -- well what do you think he is staying
in. >> well, wrestling is an interesting word. and i think that he has talked about evolving. there is also the question of devolving, 'cause he originally was for gay marriage as we all know when he was a state senator. >> because of his constituency at the time? >> here is what happens -- no here is what happens. there is a look of effort like the one we are going to make, democrats are fearful, they have -- they feel politically vulnerable on this issue, richard has some statistics here would show they don't have to be, they can have the passion and the leadership, exemplified by harvey milk. think we don't have to be -- >> name a presidential candidate who support gay marriage nationally? >> i think there hasn't been one. >> just to put it -- the play to be known. who in the republican side is going to go that way, go that far? >> i don't think anybody on the republican side but i think on the democratic side, going to have somebody who is going to go that far. >> ask you your next agenda, i think i know what it is. it's looking at the state of iowa, unusual state, moderate state politically. hard to read it some time and you know politically it is hard to read they can he have gay
marriage in that state, same sex, massachusetts, no surprise, connecticut no surprise, d.c. no surprise, new hampshire, no surprise. so new england phenomenon so far. >> the next presidential election, you will probably have california and new york in that column. >> where are you on the ted olson, david boiesy fight? i have heard within the gay community, gay rights effort a lot of skepticism that was the right way to go tried to go to the supremes to knock out prop 8? >> look, it was an outside the box on unconventional strategy, i was totally in favor of t. >> you are for the risk? >> that's right. and the fact that night when that decision came down, i proposed to my boyfriend. >> so, what's your best hope, it is going to happen in your lifetime? >> oh, sure. it is going to happen -- it is going to happen two to five years. >> give the president credit? >> i give him a lot of credit for today. we all agree on that. shake hands on this? >> thanks a lot. and thank you for all your help on this. >> i have supported this. thank you so much. i think gay service in the military is very important to
the development of this country and i think that once you've served in the military, i'm going to say at the end of this show it changes everything. catholic people, jewish people, benefited more than you can imagine in world war ii by breaking into the mainstream american society. once you have carried a gun in defense of your country, things change. thank you, david brock, thank you, richard socarides. i keep meeting you in new roles. up next, how does the director of the national intelligence operation not know about a major intelligence arrest that occurred hours before he went on television? he was stumped. areas the poor guy didn't know what we were talking about. check out side ball next. you are watching "hardball," only on msnbc.
back to "hardball." it is time for the "sideshow." first up, out of the loop. on monday morning, word spread that 12 terror suspects had been arrested in london that news flash must have had a very slow time getting across the atlantic ocean, at least to the headquarters of our director of national intelligence. when asked about the london
incident monday afternoon, washington time, the dni boss james clapper hadn't gotten his head's up. watch clapper look somewhat vacant in an interview with abc's diane sawyer. >> london. how serious is it? any implication that it was coming here? any of the things that they have seen were coming here? director clapper? >> read the arrest of the 12 -- by the british this morning? this is something the british informed us about this morning when it was taking place. >> i was a little surprised you didn't know about london, director clapper? >> oh, i'm sorry, i didn't. >> white house counterterrorism adviser john brennan, he is the guy, the guy you saw trying to interject on behalf of the dni boss, did the damage control today. anyway, i think -- let's listen. >> should he have been briefed by a staff on those arrests? yes and i know that there was breathless attention by the media about these arrests and it
was constantly on the news networks. i'm glad that jim clapper is not sitting in front of the tv 24 hours a day and monitoring what's coming out of the media. >> wow, i think john benson one hell of a colleague, don't you? talk about having your back? i still say send your old television sets to mr. clapper, he needs a tv to watch. next, let them eat s'mores. the food fight started when sarah palin on her reality show whacked at the first lady's campaign against childhood obesity. >> where's the s'mores? this is against michelle obama said the other day, we should not have dessert. >> should not have desserts? any way, mike huckabee, a diabetic who recently overcame his own struggles with weight had a different take. here he is today. >> with all due respect to my colleague and friend, sarah palin, i think she has misunderstood what michelle obama is trying to do. michelle obama is not trying to tell people what to eat or not trying to force the government's
desires on people. but she's stating the obvious that we do have an obesity crisis in this country. >> wow. score three for the huck. one, as someone who struggled with weight himself, he has credibility on diet issues. two he defended the first lady, a bit of class, regardless of your party. and three, he stuck it to his 2012 rival sarah palin. in hockey, that's called a hat trick. up next, the senate has the new s.t.a.r.t. treaty with russia with the help of a group of republicans, 13 who voted against their party's leadership. is this the moderates' last gas on or a sin of increasing influence on capitol hill? senator dianne feinstein joins us along with republican senator bob corker who defied his party leadership to vote for s.t.a.r.t. are you a senior concerned about financial independence?
this is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with russia. and this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them. the strong bipartisan vote in the senate sends a powerful signal to the world that republicans and democrats stand together on behalf of our security.
>> welcome back to "hardball." today, president obama became the first democratic president who successfully negotiated and ratified, got ratified, a nuclear arms reduction treaty. the senate ratified the new s.t.a.r.t. treaty with russia after 13 republicans broke with their leaders and backed the resolution. the final vote, look at this 71-26, the way that a treaty should be passed dramatically. democratic senator dianne feinstein of california is the chair of the intelligence committee. senator feinstein, this could have been a near-miss, in the sense that the republican leadership was saying if you didn't give the tax cuts to the wealthy people, this wasn't even going to come up. so, people were playing politics with this. what would have happened if it hadn't been passed? >> well there are a lot of allegations, i think back and forth and i think we ought to put those aside. i think this is really a significant thing. first of all, we have stood behind our president as he has negotiated a major treaty with a major power in the world. and i think it's going to be a major power that's going to be more important to america in afghanistan, with iran, with north korea.
so, this treaty, in addition to cutting nuclear warheads and deployed and nondeployed launch vehicles by about 30% over seven years, essentially opens a new day of cooperation and communication between the united states of america and russia. and that is significant and important for the world's security. >> what would have happened if it didn't pass, regardless of the reasons? if this had failed to be ratified what would be the significance with our relations with russia? >> i think it would reinforce the hardliners who say in russia, still, the united states can't be trusted, that the only way is their way. you know, we've got two young reformers as president. president medvedev and president obama. they worked this. they put it together. i went to geneva last november, had an opportunity to meet with our negotiators, spend some time with them with the russian negotiators, spend some time with them.
and this treaty was somewhat difficult to negotiate, but nonetheless, it got done. and today it got ratified and support by eastern europe nations, by the nato nations, by our allies all over the world. i'm delighted. i think it is a most important achievement. >> do you think it's good policy for the united states, if it is the policy to try to eliminate nuclear weapons in the world? >> yes, absolutely. there are too many. we could blow up the planet earth many times over. you know, i think people -- i was around, i was 12 years old when the bombs at hiroshima and nagasaki went off. a 21-kiloton bomb and a 15-kiloton bomb. the bombs, although these figures are classified, soil be very careful, but they are huge. they are five, six, seven times bigger than the bombs at hiroshima and nagasaki. and what they can do is incinerate literally millions of people. so, i think to begin to ratchet down these arsenals, the number of bases in russia are cut in half from 70 to 35.
we've got the verification that's necessary. the monitoring that's necessary. inspections, i think, that are much more in-depth and much more comprehensive with the inspection says of old s.t.a.r.t. so new s.t.a.r.t. is, in a sense, a new beginning in communication and cooperation with russia. >> thank you so much. senator dianne feinstein. >> you're welcome. >> the senate intelligence committee. thank you, senator. >> thank you, chris. >> now to a republican senator who voted for the treaty. bob corker, one of the 13 republicans who defied their leaders, kyl and mcconnell. let me ask you, senator, what was it that led you toward adoption to supporting the treaty? >> well, you know, chris, i have been working on this for at least six months. i'm on the foreign relations committee. i voted out of the committee. i said i would vote for it on the floor if certain shall use
were resolved by the time we voted. and they have been resolved and the fact is that, yes, this is a good arms control agreement. i don't think anybody has debated that 1,550 warheads deployed is less than we need. i think people forget we have another 3,500 warheads in storage. and i think what we ended up with was a balance. what republicans i think should feel good about is that the president has absolutely committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal in a way i don't think -- i know he wouldn't have committed to if it weren't from this treaty. we got strident comes from him and statements that we have codified in this ratification agreement that speaking to missile defense, the approach in europe, to our grand-based intercepters, so, i think republicans should feel very
good about a balanced agreement. i believe that, you know this absolutely in our national security interests. i think we are elect here to look at that first and i felt that that was very much what we achieved in this agreement. i'm proud of that. and at some point, chris, i think that you have to say yes to yes. i mean, the fact is the administration had answered every concern that we had. we were able to document it. codify it. there's no question that this makes our country more secure. >> let's talk about the ideal and maybe the pragmatic ideal. president reagan was very an anti-nuclear guy, even though avenues man of the right, he didn't like mutually assured self-destruction one bit. he grew up with it in his later years, hated the idea that we would have the threat of all-out nuclear war as the main way of preventing a war between the two superpowers. he wanted to get rid of them, but his plan included strategic defense, some kind of missile defense shield that would be successful enough to really make
the other side useless in terms of attacking us. is that the only road to go if we want to get rid of nuclear weapons? do we have to have a shield? is that the only route? >> well, i think we have taken a little different posture in that the offensive nature of our nuclear armaments is our defense. i think that any country knows that if they were to attack our country, literally, they'd be obliterated so we've taken a little bit of a different approach. we do not have that shield. i do hope and i think what we got out of this commitment was a -- again, strident efforts on behalf of the administration going forward as it relates to certainly what we are doing in europe. i think our biggest concern right now really is not russia. it is iran it is north korea, other sort of rogue countries. so the president has committed to going forward strongly with those. again, chris, i don't think we would have had that conversation, i don't think we would have got those commitments without this treaty. i think for both sides of the aisle this was a very good agreement, i think it's one that
speaks to the strength of this country and, you know to me it wasn't even a close decision. >> well, it's very gratifying to watch. sech 1-28 vote on a very historic issue like this. i think we need strong bipartisan support for all historymaking events. that's my view. thank you very much, senator bob corker of tennessee. >> thank you, i appreciate it. >> have a nice holiday. up next a wild finish for the 111th congress with democrats and republicans agreeing to that deal on the health bill for 9/11 responders. never thought that wouldn't even come to a vote, most people didn't. sten anyway, the house democratic leader steny hoyer joins us next, he is coming here along with first responder, one of the people that is really hurting because of the work they did in dealing with that mess that horror, of course, at 9/11 and ground zero. we will be right back on msnbc. pfffffffff! ♪ let's szush up this one tone hair color! try nice 'n easy, with color-blend technology. in one step, get a blend of tones and highlights for dimension that takes you from drabulous to fabulous. nice 'n easy. your right color. you can do this... get the ball. get the ball, girl. hmmm, you can't do that.
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the midterm elections. number two and going upward, the overall health care bill in this country. something progressives in this country have tried to do for nearly 100 years and the associated press's biggest story of the year, gosh we almost forgot, the gulf oil disaster. that is all that we talked about. i guess it doesn't it turn out as bad we thought. "hardball" will be right back.
we are back, a big week for president obama. the democrats capped off the passing of the health care bill for the 9/11 responders. u.s. congressman steny hoyer, is the democrat from maryland, the house majority leader. mr. leader, i have never seen you so strong i have never seen such a national powerhouse as you. i'm serious.
what happened the last two months that allowed you folks on the hill to come back from a blistering election and yet showing such strength in supporting the program here, including this one? >> i think we had a lot of very important things that we wanted to get done and what the election did was it took away the high motivation for obstructionism that i think existed prior to the election. as a result, we were able to sit down at the table and agree on some things and move forward. the 9/11 bill, as you know, just got 70% of the votes that were cast in the house of representatives, very important bill. but the tax bill we did in a bipartisan fashion. we moved a competes bill, we moved a crr. we moved a lot of very, very important legislation and today, of course, as you know, the president signed don't ask, don't tell, which is supported by 70% of the american people but we couldn't get done before the election. so i think what happened was the motivation for obstruction and a lack of cooperation was eliminated when the election
occurred and an ability to come together and we were committed to doing the kinds of things and the specific things that we told the american people we wanted to get done. and i think president obama's had a victory, i think the american people had a victory. >> did you see coming out of the election in fact, going into it and seeing you're an expert on how the votes were going to go seek the damage that was going to be done to your caucus? did you see the importance of making a tough call on the tax issue so that you wouldn't have all of this collateral damage? a lot of people and i think the president and you see if you hadn't cut a deal on taxes, difficult, excruciating as it was, would you have lost probably don't ask, don't tell. you might have lost new s.t.a.r.t. you might have lost this thing for 9/11 responders. >> i think the president, and i agreed with the president on this, knew that we needed to move through that issue. we wanted very strongly not to increase any taxes on working americans in this country. we didn't think that would be good for the economy. and we were committed to making sure that didn't happen. >> right. >> and we had to make a compromise.
we may not have agreed on all of it but i think on balance, it is going to help grow the economy. and i think the american people think it was the right thing to do. to do. >> do you see any opening in the republican party? they've been pretty party line on taxes and things like that. do you see any opening for the potential of different coalitions next year like we're seeing little hints of in this lame duck? >> i see a potential for that. i think that the new speaker, speaker boehner, as i've said before, has facilitated transition that has not been as confrontational, not as poisoned as the transition of 1994/'95 was. that sets a good base on which we can work. the country needs us working together. needs us to find common ground.
we have tough problems. the competition around the world is much keen are than it used to be. therefore, we need to be more united than we've been. >> it is great to have you on. i do think you've been a strong leader. that's an objective leader. that's objective statement regardless of party. have a happy christmas, sir. steny hoyer from maryland. >> best to you. >> let's bring in dan kenny. he suffered from asthma and upper respiratory issues. mike, thank you so much for joining us. what do you think will come out of this bill today that might be a help to you and others should worked on 9/11. >> today i was proud to be american, to see them working across the aisle like that. and then to actually help out the sick and suffering. and there's a lot of us that are really ill because of our time spent on the pile. and it was an amazing day to be down here to see it happen. >> what's the common symptom of people like yourself that worked at 9/11 at ground zero? >> like my doctor says, it's the aging process, but it ain't the normal aging process. it's sped up. i get a little cut. it takes months to heal. i'm just -- i'm not the man i used to be. >> well, what about the
respiratory? because that's the one that really clicks with me. seems you're breathing a lot of horrible stuff. grains of glass and grains of plastics and all kinds of chemical stuff that got blown up there. did you sense at the time you were inhaling horrible stuff chemically when you're down there? we're looking at pictures now. >> when i was down there, my skin was already breaking out in a rash, but the job was too important, you know? we had a mission and we were driven to get it done. and you take cement that's pulverized and you put it in your lungs and it becomes wet and it becomes cement again. that's what's happened to these guys. i'm wheezing going up a flight of steps. >> that stuff we saw in the air, that dust, that was filled with bad chemicals. it wasn't just bad for the eyes. it was going inside you. >> that was everything, man. that was human dna that we were
breathing in. and you know what? there's people coming down with really crazy diseases because of their time spent down there. >> you mean biological stuff? >> yes. >> well, thank you for coming on, mike. when do you think this will get through the pipeline, this money to help you guys medically? >> well, i won't go into effect until july, and the help program is up and running, and they're going to transition it over. so it really shouldn't affect us at all now that we know for the next five years that we don't have to worry about, you know, politics. this is an american issue that should have been taken care of a long time ago. >> you got two strong senators. they are powerhouses. i would say they got the job done. thank you. i hope you get better. >> thank you. >> on behalf of the country. and thank you for your service to our country. when we return, let me finish with the repeal of what don't ask, don't tell means to this country. i mean it. what a day.
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let me finish tonight with a story of american greatness. it's been my conclusion watching this country's history that we make progress on an uneven but increasingly uplifting basis. we did better at honoring the rights of people as the years go on, as voices are raised, as consciences are tweaked. i look at o bowl igs in the early 19th century, the suffrage movement, the civil rights movement each of it has expanded mesh liberties and our protection of human rights. again it took time in each case, raised voices and awakened consciences. and everywhere today, early today in the morning, the president signed the end of don't ask, don't tell, itself a transition from the old ban on gays serving in the military period. what will be the impact? think of it this way. once people get to serve the country in war, once we see them fighting for us, something profound begins to happen. what begins to happen is that all americans, all of us see who is doing their duty for the country, who is out there on the line risking life and limb. until today the military service of a number of americans was to some extent incognito.
they were serving, sweating all for this country not with their full identity known. what happened today is their identity as gay men and women will be known. not everyone will like it right away, but everyone will know it. in the years to come people grow up knowing that gay and straight people both are serving the country, risking their lives. they will know it and it will matter. how do we know this? because it all happened before and we saw how it mattered. when did religion stop keeping them from jobs and allow the open acceptance of other obstacles to catholics here in this country? it happened in the 1940s, when we fought in world war ii and catholics found themselves fighting the war right along